The biggest story in the NBA today isn't the latest playoff score, it's all about the audio tapes that portray the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, dropping racist verbal bombs on his girlfriend during an argument with her.
Granted, some parts of his rant may have been rooted in relationship jealousy - as he was apparently reacting to her posting photos of herself with athletes Magic Johnson and Matt Kemp on Instagram - but other parts definitely seem to be rooted in racist thinking.
Reading just a few of the “reaction” stories currently buzzing around us has enlightened me to the fact Sterling has gained quite the reputation for racist thought and discriminatory action. Is it deserved? Well, paying out millions of dollars for settlements over racial discrimination accusations in his real estate holdings, and people in the past quoting blatantly despicable remarks allegedly said by him are not exactly arguments in his favor.
Racism at the highest levels of professional sports is certainly not unheard of. In 1987, Al Campanis, General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, exposed his mind on a national television interview on Jackie Robinson day back before it was a Day. He casually informed the audience, and I was among them, that he believed there had not been an African-American General Manager or owner in baseball up to that point because blacks lacked “the necessities" for the job. Just for laughs, he also let on about blacks not being able to float in water. Say what?
Anybody remember Jimmy the Greek? How about Marge Schott or John Rocker? The list of folks who exposed ignorant or hateful beliefs at the wrong time just goes on and on and on.
Have you ever been sitting with work or school buddies or the in-laws and somebody lets out with a statement you just know is wrongheaded (read racist), and you don't even know how to react?
I was once standing inside the doorway of a crowded restaurant on a posh section of Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, just waiting for my turn to be called for seating, when a very well-to-do looking woman came up to me and demanded fresh silverware for her table, as hers was unacceptable. What was really unacceptable was her bloody assumption that I was a busboy.
On another occasion, some guy in a pickup truck tried to run me and my motorcycle off the road, while yelling at me for being a "dirty Mexican". That one was a bit less subtle.
I remember some folks ridiculously claiming we entered a post-racial new age when Barack Obama was first elected president. Instead, his election seemed to just ignite the fires of racists from the backwoods to the halls of Congress. Indeed, if it was that easy to kill racism, it would have died when Jackie Robinson broke MLB's color barrier. But it didn't.
High profile types like Sterling and Jimmy the Greek will continue to pay hefty fines and/or lose their cushy jobs. You might start avoiding that certain uncle at family gatherings, but will anything really change? When will dragging people behind trucks - just because they're different - ever stop?
Today's headlines about Sterling don’t surprise me at all. They just remind me once again of the ugliness that is racism and discrimination. If it's never happened to you, it's definitely happened to someone who lives on your block. Racist belief is callously thrown around from tiny kitchen tables to the boardrooms of the rich and powerful.
Unfortunately, I wasn't surprised or shocked with all this news concerning Sterling. I wasn't even slightly flabbergasted.
However, the eternal question remains: Where do we go from here?